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Tech Marketing Lead Management Process

Across the tech vendor community, approximately 50 percent of marketing investment is allocated to demand generation and about one-third of that investment is ear-marked to directly support the sales force.

New research from IDC shows that, for most vendors, this complex and expensive intersection of marketing and sales remains very much a 'work in process.' However, IDC observes pockets of excellence that are emerging as executives are starting to come to grips with the escalating costs of selling and marketing in today's tech industry.

According to IDC's Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Advisory Practice -- which undertook a study evaluating which IT vendors have demonstrated best practices in lead management process development and execution -- marketing's lead management process at a majority of tech vendors fails to provide even the most basic need of establishing a consistent global definition of a lead.

Other failure points include data collection, lead qualification, sales hand-off, lead nurturing, and performance measurement. And only a few of the companies surveyed were able to demonstrate their impact on the sales pipeline.

"Developing and maintaining an efficient and effective lead management process is mandatory for marketing's success in today's technology organization," said Michael Gerard, director of IDC' s CMO Advisory Practice. "With the correct people, processes, and infrastructure in place, marketing can better establish its credibility in the organization as well as improve its return on investment. This study provides detailed frameworks, performance metrics, participant anecdotes, and company-specific case studies to guide marketers in improving their lead management process."

Essential guidance offered in this study includes the following key points:

- CMOs must dedicate a lead management individual or team to develop and govern a marketing lead management process across the organization, ideally in collaboration with a similarly tasked sales lead manager. Senior management buy-in and support is required at process development, roll-out, and governance.

- Providing quality leads and establishing the ability to track leads will only be possible once marketers and other system users understand the need for a lead management process and its impact on the success of the marketing function. Many leading sales organizations tie use of their CRM system with compensation; it's time for marketing to follow suit.

- Performance measurement in the lead generation process will enable marketing to quantify its true impact on the sales pipeline (e.g., marketing-generated and marketing-enhanced leads and deals) and lead velocity. This will also enable marketing to establish a direct feedback loop to improve its campaign effectiveness along the entire 'customer development lifecycle' -- from awareness through advocacy.

I have two comments about these best practice recommendations. Regarding using punitive incentives to tie system use to compensation, I oppose this approach because it doesn't deliver results -- and it allows the real issue to be left untouched.

Having managed the selection, customization and implementation of numerous sales and marketing software platforms, I know that the main roadblock to CRM success is most often a bad user interface design that doesn't meet the needs of the primary user community -- the front-line sales and support people.

Moreover, typical training sessions compound the UI problems by focusing on system feature activation and usage, often in isolation from the company's current sales processes. What's missing is context -- people ask how can I use this software platform to help improve my efficiency and effectiveness across the customer development lifecycle? Meaning, purposeful engagement will drive usage.

The front-line user community will not embrace a badly designed and poorly trained system that essentially is worse than the manual or semi-automated process that was in place before the deployment. Failure to acknowledge this fact is futile, and many systems have been decommissioned -- and responsible parties employment terminated -- as a result of an expensive CRM investment anticlimax.

The good news, I agree with IDC's core assessment -- any technology company that masters the lead generation and demand stimulation process will quickly and consistently distance themselves from their peer group. Furthermore, the campaign effectiveness issue is best addressed with both push and pull elements. Creating engaging thought-leadership microsites are a basis for effective pull strategies.

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